Are the British Conservatives a party in disarray? Review of “The Conservative Party After Brexit: Turmoil and Transformation” by Tim Bale

My doctoral research focused on the main conservative party in Germany, the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU). For that reason, I like to review books about conservative parties from around the world in this scientific blog. I would to talk about Tim Bale’s “The Conservative Party after Brexit: Turmoil and Transformation” Cambridge, UK Hoboken, NJ, USA: Polity, 2023.

Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, is an experienced chronicler of the British right-wing. In his 2010 book, ‘The Conservative Party: From Thatcher to Cameron,’ he traced the development of UK conservatism since the Thatcher revolution. In his new book, ‘The Conservative Party After Brexit: Turmoil and Transformation,’ Bale identifies Brexit in 2016 as a turning point for Tory political fortunes.

Bale explains how Conservative politicians have split into competing ideological blocs since Brexit, including libertarians, Thatcherites, anti-woke culture warriors, Europhobes, and even a few old-fashioned one-nation liberals. This division reflects the souring of the Eurosceptic dream as Brexit’s consequences in social, economic, and constitutional aspects have become clear.

Moreover, three and a half years after the official start of Brexit, the UK faces economic challenges, chronic labor shortages, an understaffed health service, and high inflation. The nationalist enthusiasm that drove the success of the Leave campaign has waned, amplifying Conservative unrest. Bale also highlights Johnson’s opportunism, aligning various elements of the Conservative Party. Despite the impact of COVID-19, policy development during Johnson’s tenure was minimal, with ‘levelling up’ delayed and Brexit reduced to electoral support. The final chapter depicts the party under Liz Truss hitting the bottom of the Brexit barrel before Sunak takes the reins.  A more pragmatic interpretation of the referendum could have left Britain in a stronger position, but political imperatives led to exaggeration, denial, and damage.



Cite this blog post
Baudry Pierre (2023, October 1). Are the British Conservatives a party in disarray? Review of “The Conservative Party After Brexit: Turmoil and Transformation” by Tim Bale. Deciphering international politics - religion, economics and international affairs. Retrieved April 14, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/tl3e

Baudry Pierre

Ph.D. CNRS/EPHE (Paris), Assistant professor.

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